Memphis 2014 Softball Preview: Pitchers and Catchers
Jan. 23, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis softball team will rely on a blend of experienced veterans and talented newcomers in the circle and behind the plate as the program begins its first season in the American Athletic Conference. This week, GoTigersGo.com previews the pitchers and catchers on the 2014 team as we move closer to opening day on Feb. 7.
Head coach Natalie Poole believes a successful 2014 season is in the cards in part because of the work ethic of these two position groups.
"I think we are going come out ready to fight. I think our minds are right and we want to accomplish greater things this season than we have in the past," Poole said.
Ellen Roberts and Jordan Richwood, the top two returning pitchers for Memphis, have combined for 158 appearances and 43 victories. Experience in the circle is one of the more crucial elements to a team's overall success, especially in a season where Memphis faces so much new competition.
"I definitely have high expectations for the returners. Both Ellen and Jordan have tasted success and defeat here," Poole said of the returning duo. "They understand the kind of opponents we are going to face and they know what level of ball they are going to have to play."
Roberts, a senior, set a school record for appearances in 2013 with 49. She currently ranks first in program history in games started (70) and saves (five). The Australia native also sits at third in program history with 29 career victories.
Richwood enters her junior season just behind Roberts in several pitching categories. Through two seasons at Memphis, Richwood ranks second in school history in strikeouts/7 innings (7.54) and third in opponents' batting average against (.233).
Richwood said that experience that she and Roberts have gained will help them against both tougher and different competition in 2014.
"It brings more confidence to the table. Being able to work together helps us get done what we need to get done. Hopefully, that can result in more wins this season," Richwood said.
Irvin, a freshman from Plano, Texas, was the district pitcher of the year and led her high school to the state quarterfinals as a senior. Novak, a Nevada, Mo. native, was a three-time all-state performer and 2010 state champion in high school.
During the transition from high school to college softball, the two new Tigers have relied on the advice of Roberts and Richwood to help things go smoother.
"We let them know it's still the game that you grew up loving to play," Richwood said of her advice to Irvin and Novak. "It's a different competition level, but just go out and there and play the game that you love and remember why you are here."
Poole believes that both Irvin and Novak gained important experience in the fall season.
"It was good for them. Calli grew quite a bit. She did a good job figuring out when she could throw to the zone and when she could get some hitters chasing," Poole said. "As far as Christian is concerned, she did a good job getting into the zone and getting ahead. Both of them have grown mentally, and I look forward to seeing them continue to mature."
The goal for each of the four pitchers will be simple for the 2014 season.
"Confidence. Stay confident even if things don't go my way at times," Novak said. "Be confident in myself and my team."
Memphis fans will recognize a familiar face behind the plate this season in senior Amber Lindahl. Lindahl has played in 131 career games at Memphis, and holds the school record with 49 runners caught stealing.
"Her maturity goes a long way. Especially a lot of times in those early games, runners will try to take advantage of defenses that aren't ready for the running game," Poole said of her senior catcher. "She brings a lot of game experience and she is more confident in her game. She knows how to throw people out. I'm excited to see what she will do this season for us."
Backing up Lindahl at catcher is an exciting group of younger players. Redshirt junior Ashley Ford, sophomore Georganna Goodwin and true freshman Haleigh Ross will compete for time as the team's backup catchers.
Goodwin, who played in 18 games as a freshman last season, said the group is focusing on the leadership aspect needed to play catcher.
"We have to be the eyes on the field. We have to know where the ball needs to be at all times," Goodwin said of playing catcher. "We have to be loud and communicate. We have to know what to do, so we can help our teammates out."
Poole has been impressed by all four catchers this spring, especially the commitment to improving their fundamentals.
"Continued quickness in transition, confidence and consistency in receiving," Poole said of what the group has been working on. "If you can't catch the ball, you can't throw it. Making good decisions is something we will continue to work on."
The coaches are challenging the team to reach new heights this season, and this group of players is ready for the new challenge.
"We need to work harder and do better to get up to that next level and do what we need to do to win," Richwood said.
Poole has been impressed with the group's attitude early into the preseason.
"I think we are going come out ready to fight," Poole said. "I think our minds are right and we want to accomplish greater things this season than we have in the past."
Next week, GoTigersGo.com previews the Memphis infielders as we move closer to opening day on Feb. 7.